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Summaries of RCT Grants

RCT of a comprehensive music education program for disadvantaged youth, measuring the impact on academic achievement

This project is a replication randomized controlled trial (RCT) of a promising music education intervention for economically disadvantaged elementary school students, inspired by the “El Sistema” program in Venezuela.

Grant Recipient: Bard College

Term: 2017 –2025

Principal Investigator: Steven Holochwost, Ph.D., WolfBrown

Dennie Wolf, Ph.D., WolfBrown

Judith Hill Bose, Ph.D., Longy School of Music of Bard College

Funding: $224,720

Summary: This project is a replication randomized controlled trial (RCT) of a promising music education intervention for economically disadvantaged elementary school students, inspired by the “El Sistema” program in Venezuela. The intervention, which is funded through a combination of public and philanthropic funding sources, is delivered in an after-school setting and provides students with comprehensive music education and orchestral experience.

A prior well-conducted RCT of this intervention – carried out by the current project’s study team – found meaningful impacts on academic achievement: students offered participation in the intervention experienced a sizable, statistically-significant improvement in academic achievement (0.24 effect size) over a 1-3 year period, as measured by standardized academic exams. The theorized mechanisms for this improvement include increased school engagement, academic persistence and motivation, and social-emotional learning (all of which will be measured in this new study).

The study will seek to replicate these impacts in a larger, multi-site RCT in Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New York, and Pennsylvania. The study will randomly assign approximately 570 students in grades K-2 to the intervention or to a wait-list control group that would have an opportunity to participate in the intervention after a two-year waiting period. The study will measure impacts on academic achievement over the two-year follow-up using administrative data (i.e., district-level standardized test scores).

Grants

Arnold Ventures funds projects to understand problems and identify policy solutions.

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